Survivors of the Florida school shooting rallied in Washington Friday ahead of an anti-gun demonstration expected to draw up to 50,000 to the nation’s capital.
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School met with lawmakers and called for stricter gun laws in a dizzying day of pre-march events.
Demitri Hoth captured the urgency of the student-led movement to end gun violence in a morning news conference on Capitol Hill.
“America: We are your future. Why won't you protect us?” Hoth said.
Saturday’s March for Our Lives rally is the culmination of an extraordinary push by Marjory Stoneman Douglas students to galvanize public opinion against the National Rifle Association and the politicians it funds.
New York is among several major U.S. cities poised to host satellite rallies in a display of solidarity.
The students quickly became the face of the anti-gun violence movement following the shooting in Parkland that killed 17 students and staffers on Feb. 14.
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On social media and in a series of public events around the country, the teen activists have kept up a relentless campaign for stricter gun laws, including a ban on assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines.
“Let us pray with our legs, let us march in unison to the rhythm of justice, because I say enough is enough,” Hoth said at the rally, surrounded by lawmakers and other students.
Washington-bound buses carrying scores of teens rolled out from Florida and other states across the south and midwest Friday.
“We’re not going to stop,” Stoneman Douglas senior Skyler Tauman said before boarding a bus bound for the capital.
“We’re not going to stop until there’s a change, because it’s ridiculous.”
Some of those already in Washington gathered at the Newseum for a panel discussion by Stoneman Douglas student journalists.
Others planned to attend an evening vigil at the National Cathedral and a concert headlined by Fall Out Boy.
“This is a time for action. We need to support the Parkland teens, and kids across the country,” Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz said in a statement.
“We have their backs, and we must demand our lawmakers do more to end this gun violence crisis.”
Among the bold-faced names who joined the morning rally were former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011, and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly.
“What’s really exciting is they’re not going to be students very long, they’re going to be voters,” Kelly said, according to CNN.
The event also drew students from outside of Florida.
Keshon Newman, a high schooler from Chicago, recalled the death of his oldest stepbrother who was shot and killed two years ago.
“In Chicago, it's important for you to know that gun violence has become a tragic way of life, which shouldn't be the normal way of life,” Newman said.
“No, we don't have random mass shootings. We have daily shootings.”
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